Dram Shop

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Texas, like elsewhere in the country, has an alcohol culture. According to recent statistics, 169.7 million adults over the age of 18 reported drinking alcohol in 2021. Of these, 59 million adults reported binge drinking.

Binge drinking is not only a health problem – it also becomes a legal issue when injuries are caused by excessive alcohol use. Third parties who suffer injuries in Texas because of an intoxicated individual may be able to recover damages under a state statute known as the Dram Shop law. Here, we take a deep dive into Texas’ dram shop law and let you know what you can do if you’ve been injured by an intoxicated person who qualifies under the statute.

Dram Shop Defined

Because of its outdated terminology, you may be wondering, “What is a dram shop law?”
A dram shop is any establishment that serves alcohol. This includes the following:

  • Bars
  • Taverns
  • Restaurants
  • Private clubs
  • Convenience stores
  • Liquor stores
  • Other establishments that serve alcoholic
  • Beverages

In Texas, the law also protects parties who are injured as a result of a private host over serving someone of legal age or serving alcohol to someone underage, as long as the alcohol is sold to the individual.

Overview of Dram Shop Laws

A dram shop law – also known as a dram shop rule or dram shop act – is a type of civil liability statute that holds a dram shop liable for the harmful acts of an intoxicated patron. The dram shop law is triggered when several factors are met:

  • When the establishment acts negligently in serving the intoxicated customer;
  • The intoxicated customer causes harm, usually to a third party;
  • The server knew or reasonably should know that the patron was intoxicated or
  • The person served is under the age of 18.

Most jurisdictions base liability on a negligence theory instead of on a strict liability theory. This means that for an establishment to be held liable, they must meet the elements of negligence:

  • There is a duty of care that the defendant owed the plaintiff;
  • The duty was breached by the defendant;
  • Harm was caused to the plaintiff or third party, and
  • The defendant’s actions were a proximate cause of the harm.

Strict liability, on the other hand, would cause an establishment to be liable independent of actual negligence or an intent to cause harm.

Purpose of Dram Shop Laws

Like all laws, dram shop laws are designed for a specific purpose. These laws protect third parties from becoming victims of negligent acts. They also give parties who have experienced harm to have legal remedies for that harm.

Texas Dram Shop Law

The majority of states have some sort of dram shop law. But what is the dram shop law in Texas?

In Texas, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code is a set of laws governing the sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages in Texas. This law establishes the liability of businesses that serve alcohol.

Examples of Harm Under the Dram Shop Law

To trigger the dram shop law, an intoxicated customer must cause harm to a third party. Examples include drunk driving accidents and bar fights. Note that there must be harm to a third party – it is not enough that the establishment negligently serves an intoxicated customer.

Types of Liability Under the Dram Shop Law

If a dram shop violates the law, they can be held liable for an array of damages including, but not limited to:

  • Medical bills
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of consortium or companionship
  • Funeral expenses for wrongful death claims

Family members of the harmed party may also recover under Texas’ dram shop law, typically for loss of consortium or wrongful death..

Types of Evidence

To prove a negligence claim under the dram shop law, plaintiffs can utilize a variety of evidence. Types of evidence that can be used against the defendant include:

  • Surveillance video of the defendant being served
  • Witness statements
  • Medical records
  • Police reports
  • Other types of relevant evidence

Like with any legal case, the more evidence a plaintiff can supply, the stronger the case and the more likely it is that the plaintiff will receive their requested damages.

Defenses to the Dram Shop Law in Texas

Bars and other alcohol-serving establishments do have valid defenses to a dram shop law claim, however.
One common defense is known as the Safe Harbor Act, which provides some protection to these establishments. For a Safe Harbor Act defense to be effective, the establishment must show that:

  • It provided employee training on safe and responsible alcohol service practices
  • The establishment did not knowingly serve alcohol to an intoxicated person or someone under the age of 21
  • Excessive drinking was not promoted

Specifically, the Safe Harbor Act can be used when an establishment:

  • Requires staff to attend Commission-approved training programs on safe alcohol serving;
  • The server attended such a training, and
  • The employer did not directly or indirectly encourage the server to over-serve a patron or serve a patron under 18.

Under the U.S. Supreme Court decision Petitioner v. Parker, an employer only has to prove that they required staff to attend a training and that the server in question did attend such a training. Once those elements are established, the burden of proof shifts to the plaintiff to prove the third element – that the server was not directly or indirectly encouraged to over serve or serve a minor patron. The plaintiff can prove direct or indirect encouragement if the defendant rewarded servers for over serving or if the servers were encouraged to serve someone who was visibly intoxicated. This is where evidence becomes critical, as does an experienced Dram Shop Attorney.

Texas Dram Shop Liability Lawyer, Colby Lewis, is Your Choice for Plaintiffs

Establishing a dram shop claim can be complicated and stressful if you don’t have the right attorney. At the Law Offices of Colby Lewis, we pride ourselves on our commitment to receiving justice for injured victims. We do this by gathering evidence, giving legal advice, guiding you through the court or settlement process, and establishing grounds for the recovery of damages.

With Colby Lewis by your side, you can recover the compensation you need to become whole again after a dram shop-related incident. For Relentless Representation of your rights, contact Dram Shop injuries lawyer Colby Lewis today